Yesterday David Brooks pointed out how profoundly secular the Democratic Party is as well as the campaign of its candidate, John Kerry. In religious America, this is bad news for the left.
A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. That's a catastrophic number. That number should be the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on their lips when they go to sleep at night. They should be doing everything they can to change that perception, because unless more people get a sense of Kerry's faith, they will feel no bond with him and they will be loath to trust him with their vote.As a Christian sojourning in the land of liberal irreligious elites -- aka the American academy -- I can testify that Brooks is for once correct in his analysis. They in fact cannot feel it in their bones; liberal elites quite frankly would rather lose an election than give ground on their own secular creed. The secular left's intolerant position on abortion is the best example of an issue on which Democrats are far more dogmatic than Republicans.
Yet his campaign does nothing. Kerry talks about jobs one week and the minimum wage the next, going about his wonky way, each day as secular as the last.
It's mind-boggling. Can't the Democratic strategists read the data? Religious involvement is a much, much more powerful predictor of how someone will vote than income, education, gender or any other social and demographic category save race.
Can't the Democratic strategists feel it in their bones how important this is? After all, when you go out among the Democratic rank and file, you find millions of Democrats who are just as religious as Republicans. It's mostly in the land of Democratic elites that you are likely to find yourself among religious illiterates.
Secular liberal Democrats who don't instinctively hate faith and religion -- Kevin Drum comes immediately to mind -- have been trumpeting the so-called "religious left" as the Democrats answer to Pat Robertson and James Dobson. As someone whose politics resembles that of old-fasioned blue collar Catholics, I've always been skeptical of the credentials as well as the power of such a group. So with the help of adherents.com I did a quick tally of the strength of the religious left and came away duly unimpressed.
Here is my list of the members of the religious left in the United States, together with a rough percentage figure for how many in the denomination can be classified as such, followed by the number of members of the religious left contributed by each denomination.
Reform Judaism -- 100% -- 1.5 million
United Church of Christ -- 100% -- 1.38 million
Unitarian Universalist Association -- 100% -- 0.22 million
Quakers/Friends -- 100% -- 0.1 million
Presbyterian Church USA -- 67% -- 2.4 million
Episcopal Church -- 67% -- 1.6 million
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- 50% -- 2.52 million
United Methodist Church -- 33% -- 2.75 million
TOTAL -- 12.47 million
This is an amazingly weak number when you consider there are over 16 million Southern Baptists in the United States. Note also that the core of the "religious left" -- the first four denominations listed -- totals a mere 3.2 million.
In a country as religious as America, you'd better pin your hopes on a lot more than the "religious left" if you want to get elected.